Last week while we were discussing coaching, I received some questions about ways to improve the effectiveness of your team’s practice time when you aren’t all able to commit pro-levels of scrim time as a team. Maybe someone has a job with weird hours, or someone gets sick so you can’t play as a full unit. Maybe you’ve got a chair league match next week, but the full squad can’t get together until that night because of everyone’s real life commitments. With that in mind, here are a few things that you can do either alone or as a smaller group to make your time more productive when you can’t all be together.
1. Play the Game
There’s just no substitute for it. Every pro in every MOBA complains about solo queue and how awful it is, but want to know what all the elite players do? They play. They play hours and hours of solo queue. Think of it like how a linebacker will just practice tackling a dummy for hours. Playing solo queue keeps your mechanics sharp, and commits more details of your play into muscle memory. The less you have to think about how to play a hero, the more your mind can focus on what the enemy is doing, where your allies are, and other game factors. Every game you play is a point of positive practice time, no matter how bad the matchmaking might be, or how stupid the team composition seems. Just play the game a lot.
2. Watch the Game
Maybe your computer crashed, or you are stuck on a family trip without access to your setup, but you have lots of down time. Get out your phone, go to YouTube, and watch some pro matches. Don’t just watch them for entertainment–get out a pen and some paper. Look at the draft and think about why certain picks were chosen, or where they went in the order. Think about who on your team would play each hero in that comp and why. Pause the vod every 5 minutes and note the levels, structures, kills, etc. How does that compare to your team? How does Khroen’s hero damage on Li Ming compare to yours at the same time in your last Chair League match?
When watching the game, it is immensely important to focus on your own personal growth. If you are the team captain or main drafter, look at how you can adopt certain strategies, but otherwise you should be exclusively focused on comparing their play to your own. If you’re the warrior for your team, focus on watching where Fury positions, not on what Jun’s doing. Take notes! watch three pro matches, and write down two takeaways that you want to try to focus on the next time you play with your team.
3. Team Bonding
It cannot be understated how important team synergy is in a MOBA. Being good friends with your teammates actually does matter. You shouldn’t only be talking about the game, or only communicating during practice time. Set up a discord and chat! Talk about your favorite anime, sports, whatever. Get to know each other. Challenge yourself to know the answers to the following questions for all your teammates:
How many siblings do they have?
How old are they?
What’s their favorite Disney movie?
Who is their favorite Dragonball Z character?
Who’s their favorite hero to play?
Who’s their favorite pro team?
As a little kid, what did they want to be when they grew up?
If just randomly asking deep personal questions feels awkward, do some stuff together out of game. Watch some pro matches together and chat. Play Rocket League together. Schedule a practice night to just play ARAM or brawl all night. Set up an inter-team Hearthstone tournament. Do something to make everyone have more fun spending time together.
Google Docs is the greatest strategic tool in any HOTS team’s toolbelt. Plus, you can access it from anywhere! If you are bored at work and can’t play tonight, get on your team’s drafting doc and theorycraft some drafts. Adjust your hero priority lists. Send an email out to the team and have everyone create a tierlist for their role based on the current meta. Work on your map priority chart, and organize your map-specific comps.
If you don’t have any of these things, get to work! This is the first step for me every time I consult for a team–it’s that important. I can’t do anything until I can see on paper how highly your flex player prioritizes the Lost Vikings. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time prepping drafts around Stitches if your warrior player thinks he’s the ninth best tank. If you want, I have a template drafting spreadsheet that I use for every consultation. Shoot me a DM on Twitter and I’ll give you a copy.
5. Play Battlerite
If only two or three of you can play, you have a limited amount of time, and you are just burnt out on grinding hero league, go install Battlerite. There is no better tool for improving your teamfighting mechanics anywhere in the world. The game’s resource system educates you on how to stay conscious of your own health, how to be constantly creating value during fights, and how to land skillshots.
It’s literally nothing but teamfights and the session length is very short, so you can grind out fights way more effectively than you could in HOTS or another MOBA. Plus, there’s a giant owl who’s a time wizard!
Obviously, playing the game as a group of five is the best practice you can possibly get. If people want, we can dive into ways to make that time more productive in another blog. These ideas are primarily for that time when you’d like to be improving, or feeling productive, but simply cannot get the time to play together.